The legacy of the Pleistocene megafauna extinctions on nutrient availability in Amazonia

11 August 2013

Nature Geoscience

Christopher E. Doughty, Adam Wolf & Yadvinder Malhi Nature Geoscience 6, 761–764 (2013) doi:10.1038/ngeo1895

View Journal Article / Working Paper

In the late Pleistocene, 97 genera of large animals went extinct, concentrated in the Americas and Australia. These extinctions had significant effects on ecosystem structure, seed dispersal and land surface albedo. However, the impact of this dramatic extinction on ecosystem nutrient biogeochemistry, through the lateral transport of dung and bodies, has never been explored. Here we analyse this process using a novel mathematical framework that analyses this lateral transport as a diffusion-like process, and we demonstrate that large animals play a disproportionately large role in the horizontal transfer of nutrients across landscapes.